All dental resources used and distributed by the Childsmile programme are purchased as part of a single national contract which goes out to European tender. However, this year we will begin the process for setting the specification for the next contract at which point we will look at all the products we use and identify any changes we wish to make to what we ask suppliers to provide. As part of this we will ask suppliers to provide us with options which are recyclable.
At present, the toothbrushes we use have polypropylene handles which can be widely recycled. However, one of the challenges we have is that the head of the brush currently has mixed materials and can’t be readily recycled in household waste meaning the head needs to be removed before the handle is placed in recycling. The wrapping is polypropylene too and can be widely recycled.
The Childsmile Programme do appreciate that we need to be sympathetic to wider concerns and issues, including use of plastics. A recent development is each local NHS health board has signed up to a recycling service which will involve us trialling the collection of used brushes and toothpaste tubes from schools and nurseries to send them to a specialist recycling service. This service is provided by Terracycle and supported by Colgate.
That said, it’s important to understand that there is a tight NHS budget for the Childsmile contract, which is set by Scottish Government, and all the resources are purchased from this money. At present it is less than 20p for each brush used in the programme. Should any proposed change be unaffordable it would not be possible to proceed.
Since the introduction of the Childsmile programme the percentage of children in Primary 1 free from obvious caries has increased from around 40% to over 70%. Improved oral health across the population means fewer days off school and a reduced requirement for extractions under general anaesthetic. These developments are largely as a result of being able to provide enough toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste to all children across all health boards in Scotland.